The FIS Alpine World Championships in Garmisch have just been flying by. We are now into the second week of the Championships with the speed disciplines finished. The first races of the event were the men's and women's super G and then we got into the downhill training runs in preparation for the downhill race and the super combined.
Before the super G race we had free-skiing on the race hill. The day before our coaches had been on the hill to check things out and we had heard that conditions were a bit icy, so we prepared ourselves for some different conditions. I had my technician add a little more bite to my edges and off to the start of the super G course we went.
When we do free-skiing on the race hill everything is very controlled. We leave the start, someone is there to tell us when to go so there is enough space between you and the person in front of you. And all the coaches are on the hill and can't move until the 45 minutes of free-skiing on the race hill is up.
I left the gate for my first run and right away I could feel it was icy, but still it had a lot of grip. It felt pretty good. Oh, and it was bumpy... but still, not too crazy that you couldn't attack it.
The first run I usually use to feel out the hill and the snow conditions and then on the second or third run I can bring up the speed and get a better feel for the hill under race speeds. I finished the first run and I said to myself, 'well, that's definitely more than a little icy!' One section of the hill surface looked like a mirror, it was so icy. But, again, it gripped and if the skis were up on edge it was no problem.
I left the free-skiing feeling pretty confident about the race for the next day. I left the hill and didn't really give the conditions another thought.
The reason why the icy conditions were such a shock to us is because we haven't had any conditions as icy or as bumpy this entire season. We have had very cold conditions which makes for snow that is very aggressive and chalky and VERY easy to turn on. We have had warm conditions, and races where man-made snow was all there was as Europe experiences a warm, dry winter.
Ice and bumps like Garmisch can be more intimidating but it is actually a better feeling under the boot. When the snow is too cold and very aggressive it's like skiing over styrofoam, it makes a funny sound and you don't get much feedback from the ski. On ice, you just stand on it and the ski bites and comes around -that is, if you have sharp enough edges!